Here are our selected picks for the May 15 primary. We have not included uncontested races. See our news stories, briefs and letters this week for more information, and most candidates have websites. Ballots can be mailed in by May 10 or dropped off at white ballot boxes around town up until 8 pm May 15.
U.S. House of Representatives
Peter DeFazio (D)
This race is a race in name only and the winner is without a shadow of a doubt Rep. Peter DeFazio. DeFazio is challenged in the primary by Matthew Robinson, son of Republican candidate Art Robinson, in more of the senior Robinson’s strange political theater. Robinson the younger switched parties back in August, but he hasn’t switched any of his political leanings. He might call himself a Democrat but he’s a wolf — no, scratch that — a pup in sheep’s clothing. DeFazio’s raised some ire with his current forest plan, but that’s what the irascible congressman does best — gets all fired up and gets his constituents all fired up too.
Oregon Secretary of State
Kate Brown (D)
Kate Brown is an easy choice in this primary contest against perennial candidate Paul Damien Wells, who has little to offer. Among other positive work, Brown has expanded Oregonians’ access to the ballot through online voter registration.
Oregon Attorney General
Dwight Holton (D)
Holton served ably as U.S. attorney for Oregon for nearly two years, and has shown us that he could run the AG office. We like his emphasis on preventative measures in law enforcement, his willingness to take on environmental issues and his tireless reaching out to the people of the state. So far, he seems to be an unusual politician who has some modesty and doesn’t need to trumpet his accomplishments even in a campaign. We also like Ellen Rosenblum, but her career as a judge would appear to qualify her more for the Oregon Supreme Court than for the Department of Justice. Having left her seat on the Court of Appeals, she says she wants more activism, but we suggest she consider filling the next vacancy in the high court instead. Both are Democrats; no Republican opposition.
Supreme Court, Position 3
Timothy J. Sercombe
Three good candidates for this job, but we pick Sercombe because of his smarts, his strong work ethic, his ability to work with all kinds of people and his dry wit. He practiced law in Eugene for 14 years, moved to a Portland firm and then to the court of appeals in 2007 with an appointment from Gov. Kulongoski. His knowledge of land use, municipal and administrative law will be welcome on the Supreme Court.
Court of Appeals Judge Position 6
James C. Egan
Jim Egan is a sitting judge on the Linn County Circuit Court and a Republican whose career has been representing injured people in workers comp and personal injury cases. He also served as a JAG attorney, including a tour in the Middle East before going on the bench. The Court of Appeals needs members who have worked as trial court judges. The Oregon appellate judiciary, the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals currently include only one judge, Dave Brewer, with that important trial court experience.
That experience in the trenches on the first level of the judicial system is most important. Egan was president of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association in 2005-6.
North Lane County Commissioner
Rob Handy would like to see big private timber pay its fair share of taxes, to the tune of about $20 million a year in Lane County alone. It’s no wonder he has been targeted by the timber industry. Nothing personal, just business. Despite all the drama in his first term, or maybe because of it, we’ve seen Handy mature and grow stronger, engaging in ambitious environmental and economic issues, educating his constituents, being accessible and standing up for the well-being of people all over Lane County.
Pat Farr is aligned with the timber, gravel and construction industries, which is fine, but those interests are already overrepresented on the board. It’s disturbing to hear Farr say, “There is nothing that the county or I or anybody can do about whether or not Parvin Butte is mined.” Handy doesn’t shrug and roll over. Farr is an artful dodger. He won’t say what he would cut in order to “guarantee” public safety funding, he’s mum on Handy’s proposed timberlands tax, he won’t say if he supports overturning Measure 5, he won’t even say if he favors a woman’s right to terminate pregnancy.
Farr did finally get back to us regarding his time at FOOD for Lane County, saying, “My departure from FFLC had nothing to do with alcohol and any rumors to the contrary are simply not true.” Farr was convicted of drunk driving one night in 2006 while he was head of the nonprofit. His blood alcohol content was .32 percent, four times the legal limit. “I quit drinking alcohol completely years ago,” he tells us. “The case had a profound effect on my life and my family’s life,” and he’s now a vocal advocate against drunk driving. Good for him. But let’s give Handy four more years.
South Lane County Commissioner
Sorenson has a good, long track record on the issues his south Eugene constituents care about — clean water, clean energy, local business, local (and union) jobs, human rights, saving schools, to name a few. His efforts to curb out-of-control logging, mining and other destructive practices have made him some enemies, but that doesn’t stop Sorenson from voting on the side of the little guy.
Andy Stahl’s done well as executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, but his cocky claims to have single-handedly saved the spotted owl make us wonder if he really can work well with others. We know he can fight and we know he can sue, but we’re not so sure he can play well with others, or more importantly stand up for the values his south Eugene neighbors care about. Worse, he’s taking advantage of a right-wing timber-funded lawsuit to attack a fellow Democrat. We think Stahl’s too smart to think that suit holds water, so does that mean he’s just using it for his own political gain?
Sorenson might be feeling a little punchy from all the unfounded attacks he has faced, but he’s still standing, and still fighting for the green, humanitarian and local values he always has. We like that.
This year’s mayoral contest should be Piercy’s easiest race yet — Eugene’s mayor is running for a third term against Kevin Prociw and Jon Walrod, two Eugeneans who have never held elected office.
In addition to her experience in office and her stellar support for women’s rights and the environment, we’re supporting Piercy because of the approach she’s taken in leadership. When tackling topics that conservatives have tried to claim as their own — labeling themselves pro-business and liberals as anti-business — like the multi-faceted problems downtown, Piercy takes a collaborative approach with the city councilors and tries to solve problems through consensus.
Prociw, a systems analyst in the city’s information services department, is best known for his opposition to the West 11th EmX extension and opposition to Occupy camping at the park, but he says he differs from the “straight conservative line” on issues like marijuana, religious freedom (including freedom from religion), reproductive choice and contraception funding.
Without any involvement in government or civic groups that we can see, Walrod, who sells home security systems, isn’t a viable candidate even for conservative Eugeneans.
Eugene City Council, Ward 2
Ward 2 in Eugene is the only one with an incumbent city councilor facing opposition this year. A progressive running for her fifth term, Betty Taylor, who even the R-G, which has five-for-five endorsed her opponents, has to admit is an “icon,” is challenged by Social Security specialist and Eugene Police Commission Chair Juan Carlos Valle.
Taylor is a dependable progressive who doesn’t mind being the only “Yay” or “Nay” vote if it means she’s standing up for her ward and the principles of her platform. She’s spoken out against the downtown exclusion zone and stood up for the environment, and she was the first to say enough’s enough after approving a couple of Multiple-Unit Property Tax Exemptions downtown.
Those who don’t follow city politics closely might fall prey to the (conservative-backed?) rumor that Taylor is closed-minded. Maybe that’s because she speaks forcefully from the council chamber once she’s ready to vote. But Taylor still hasn’t decided how she’ll vote on the West EmX extension, and she says she’s met with both LTD officials and anti-EmXers to talk about the impact of the project.
Valle is an enthusiastic, engaged community member with a compelling life story. He came to Eugene homeless years ago, and he says he wants to give back to the community that’s helped him along the way. We found him difficult to pin down on the issues, and he’s prone to saying that he’d want to sit down with everyone before making a decision. It’s a good way to operate, but we can’t endorse cautious indecision over positive, proven stands.
We’d love to see Valle running against a less reliably progressive candidate in the future.
EWEB Commission, Wards 1 & 8
We like both these candidates, Steve Mital and Will Shaver, and we’re happy to see a contested race since it offers an opportunity for the public to look at the big issues facing EWEB. Shaver’s strength is his ability to analyze systems and come up with novel solutions — useful skills in our increasingly complex energy system. Shaver is also heavily involved in the community. But we favor Mital in this race for his broader understanding of the issues facing EWEB and how EWEB decisions affect not only our community but also other communities, such as Veneta. He sees creative opportunities for collaboration with the Springfield Utility Board to provide water security for both communities. Mital has the support of Mayor Kitty Piercy and other endorsers we trust. We hope Shaver, if he does not win, comes back to try again later.
Springfield Ward 4
EW doesn’t weigh in on Springfield politics as often as maybe we should, but Cj Mann, a labor activist and Housing and Community Services of Lane County employee, is worth endorsing in her challenge to incumbent Dave Ralston. Ralston’s nasty remarks about immigrants and Centro LatinoAmericano led to his removal from the Lane County Human Rights Commission by Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg, and that sort of close-minded thinking reverses any positive feelings we might have had about his years of experience on the Springfield City Council. Mann might seem new to the political arena but she’s got union leadership experience and is looking to improve schools, roads, parks, jobs and transportation in Springfield. We are all for that.